Pocahontas is a well-known figure in literature and film production, which portray her as a princess indigenous but had its image drastically remodeled over the years, to fit into society's standard, or to meet the needs of marketing. But the Pocahontas was a real person , born about 1596 in the Powhatan empire, which consisted of a group of 28 Indian tribes located in the Tidewater region near present-day Jamestown, Virginia, U.S.A. Her father, known as Powhatan, was the chief of this empire .
During her life, Pocahontas was responsible for having promoted peace between the English colonists and the Native Americans , where she befriended the colonists and even married one of them. When Pocahontas had her first contact with them, she was only 10 or 11 years old.
How did Pocahontas become famous?
When some English settlers arrived in the Americas in 1607, they settled in the Chesapeake Bay, but their leader John Smith was eventually taken prisoner by the men of Pocahontas' father.
By his account, Smith was about to have his head struck by a rock when Pocahontas appeared to save his life by standing over him before he received the fatal blow. After this event, Smith was released to return to Jamestown, but some historians believe Smith may have misunderstood, and the ritual he believed to be an execution could actually be abenign ceremony.
But what is known is that the young Pocahontas became friends with the colonists, and often visited them on their premises. She was very interested in learning English , and whenever she could she brought with her gifts from her father to help the colonists. In January 1609, she helped them by warning of an ambush that would occur against them.
When Smith returned to England, the relationship between the colonists and Powhatan eventually deteriorated, and the English advised Pocahontas that Smith had died, causing her not to return to the colony for the next four years.
During the spring of 1613, Sir Samuel Argall took her prisoner, as he believed he could use her to secure the return of some English prisoners, along with their weapons and other tools.
To accomplish this, Algall partnered with Japazeus, the chief of the Patawomeck tribe who lived near the Potomac River that Pocahontas used to frequent.Japazeus and his wife lured Pocahontas to Argall's ship, where he held her prisoner so he could take her to Jamestown.As much as her father had freed seven English prisoners, it was not possible to have Pocahontas fromback because he didn't return the guns and tools.
When and who did she marry?The marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.
After being taken to Jamestown, Pocahontas stayed in an English settlement known as Henricus. During her captivity, she was treated courteously, and eventually converted to Christianity , and changed her name at christening to Rebecca.
Being a Christian now, Pocahontas accepted John Rolfe's marriage proposal, which was approved by the governor of Virginia at the time, Sir Thomas Dale, and the Powhatan chief. There are accounts taken from Powhatan tradition and from a settler that said Pocahontas had once married a Powhatan man named Kocoum.
But that did not stop their marriage , which took place in April 1614, and brought peace between the English and the Native Americans. Shortly thereafter, Pocahontas, now known as Rebecca, and her husband John had a son they named Thomas.
His death and legacy
During the spring of 1616, Pocahontas, her husband and son took a trip with Governor Dale to England, where she was entertained with royal festivities. The Virginia Company saw her visit as a positive point in getting the word out about the colony and gaining the support of King James I and investors.
However, during preparations to return to her home, Pocahontas fell ill with a lung disease that worsened before her ship left the Thames. Pocahontas died at the age of 21 in the town of Gravesend, and was buried there on March 21, 1617.
Even after her death, her story resonated over time, with the period leading up to the American Civil War , abolitionists claiming Pocahontas as a symbol of racial harmony, while Southerners used her and Rolfe as progenitors of the Southern aristocracy."Return to the Encyclopedia